Étude des corrélats comportementaux et cérébraux de l'empathie chez les professionels de la santé


Philip Jackson

Université Laval


Domaine : neurosciences, santé mentale et toxicomanie

Programme chercheurs-boursiers - Senior

Concours 2014-2015

This research program is dedicated to the study of the behavioural and neural bases of human empathy using state-of-the-art brain imaging and brain stimulation methods. This program targets mainly health issues such as pain management, with the core of the program focusing on empathy in healthcare professionals. Pain, which plays an important part in signaling and preventing tissue damage and warns us about underlying illness, can reach proportions beyond its initial function. Once pain is chronic, it can be very incapacitating, leading to loss of productivity and quality of life. Accurate evaluation of patients' pain by care providers is crucial for effective pain management.

Building on previous research on pain communication, this project combines expertise from different disciplines including health care, health psychology and cognitive neuroscience. The objective of the innovative series of studies proposed is to investigate how prolonged exposure to the pain of others changes behavior and the organization of brain functions, and whether such changes affect pain assessment and pain management. An intervention to improve empathy for pain in care providers and ultimately improve pain management for patients will also be tested.

The proposed studies will lead to clinically relevant results that will provide a deeper understanding of the potential underlying causes of pain under-management, and help develop strategies to improve both the patients' and the care providers' well-being. Additional basic science studies are proposed to uncover the neural and physiological underpinning of the sensorimotor and affective processes that underlie human empathy, and a more recent project aims at developing a cutting-edge virtual reality platform that will ultimately be used to improve social functioning in populations presenting with social cognition deficits, such as patients suffering from schizophrenia, personality disorders or traumatic brain injury.